On Jan. 27, President Obama gave his State of the Union Address and reminded the nation of what his administration was fighting for. Among his many promises to strengthen the economy and tighten security measures against terrorism, was an effort to work with Congress and the military over the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that currently bars openly gay men and women from serving in the military.
A gay couple living in Ohio has filed a lawsuit today against the state of Ohio for failing to recognize their Maryland-certified same-sex marriage, which they claim is discriminatory because the state is required to recognize any certified heterosexual marriage from another state as valid.
Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive and disabling neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate, traveled to Maryland last week to officially tie the knot after remaining as partners for 20 years, reports Cincinnati.com. The trip reportedly cost nearly $13,000 for a chartered, medically-equipped plane, all of which was sourced by donations from friends and family.
Arthur, 47, is a bed-ridden hospice patient and was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.
Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who is representing Arthur and Obergefell, cites the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause, noting that the Supreme Court's historic overturn of DOMA has stripped states of the right to discriminate against couples who seek same-sex marriages.
"John and James were validly married in Maryland. If they were an opposite sex couple, Ohio would recognize their marriage. Being a same-sex couple is no longer a good enough reason to deny them equal rights.”
As an example, he explains that should two first cousins fall in love in the state of Ohio, they can't be wed in Ohio and have their union recognized; however, should they travel to Georgia, where marrying your first cousin is legal, they could come back to Ohio and have a recognizable union under state law, enjoying the same benefits as any other heterosexual married couple in Ohio. The same rules would follow for other stipulations prohibited under Ohio law, such as getting married underage in another state where the union would be legal.
Defense attorneys Terry Nester and Bridget Koontz were not available for comment. CityBeat will update this story with any changes.
Gerhardstein told CityBeat that the plaintiffs will go before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Monday, July 22, to ask for an expedited ruling in light of Arthur's rapidly deteriorating condition.
"Had the Supreme Court made this decision one year ago, this would have been as simple as us taking a trip because I could still walk. It's the progression for me of the ALS, it's...it's just compounded everything," he told Cincinnati.com camera crews earlier this week.
"These kids don't have to live on the streets and wonder every day where they'll be getting their next meal,” DeWine said in a statement.
The grant money, which totals $430,000, will be shared between the Cincinnati organization and The Next Step, another homeless aid organization based in Geauga and Portage counties.
LYS, which helps about 2,200 people in the Greater Cincinnati area each day, will get $137,500 year per year for two years. The money will primarily go to the Lighthouse on Highland facility, which is located in Clifton. Bob Mecum, CEO of LYS, says the facility helps youth between the ages of 16 and 24 that are typically victims of violence.
During the day, Lighthouse on Highland provides nursing, showering, washing, food, shelter, computer and case-management services. At night, the organization acts as a 28-bed shelter. On the average day, the facility helps 10 to 30 people with its street outreach services and 40 to 60 people with its on-site services. On the typical night, 27 out of 28 beds are filled.
“Through this grant from the attorney general offices, the services out of the Highland location will be funded,” Mecum says.
On average, LGBT youth face greater homelessness rates. Even though LGBT youth makes up only about 10 percent of the general youth population, LGBT youth makes up about 20 percent of the homeless youth population, according to the National Coalition of Homelessness. LGBT youth are also twice as likely to experience sexual abuse by the age of 12, and they’re about 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual youth.
Hold onto your hats, kiddies! Those trying to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have a new supporter on their side. And it’s not at all who you would expect.
It’s former Vice President Dick Cheney! That’s right, the Dick Cheney. In a shocking twist on the debate of whether or not gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, Dick Cheney came out on Sunday with an answer more surprising than a gunshot to the face.
He said yes!
His direct quote as seen on ABC’s This Week in regards to whether it was time to let gays and lesbians serve openly in the military is as follows, “Well, I think the society has moved on. I think it’s partly a generational question. I say I’m reluctant to second-guess the military in this regard because they’re the ones who have got to make the judgment about how these policies affect the military capability of our, of our units. And that first requirement that you have to look at all the time is whether they’re still capable of achieving their mission and does the policy change i.e. putting gays in the force, affect their ability to perform their mission. When the chiefs come forward and say we think we can do it, then it strikes me that it’s time to reconsider the policy. And I think Admiral Mullen’s said that.”
Now while this doesn’t exactly mean Cheney will be out there with his daughter in June wearing his Pride shirt through Northside, it is a surprising glimmer of hope from a very unlikely source. Considering his opposition just last year to a federal amendment to allow gay marriage, rather than going with state by state decision, his position on DADT seems a fraction bolder than the Cheney we are used to. But then again, we have heard this sort of vague support of what our military leaders deem the right course of action before.
On October 18, 2006, Senator John McCain appeared on MSNBC and was quoted as saying that if the military’s leadership thought it time to change the current policy, then he would have to “consider seriously changing it.” Not exactly a strong stance on the issue one way or the other, but significantly different to his current position. For despite Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen’s support of the repeal, stating in his testimony to Congress on February 2 of this year that, “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” John McCain stands in firm opposition.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been an imperfect, but effective policy,” McCain said to Congress, in response to the efforts to repeal. “And at this moment, when we’re asking more of our military than at any time in recent memory, we should not repeal this law.” Hmm… Funny McCain should bring up memory, since his seems to have a three year expiration.
Whether or not Cheney will offer any real support to the issue of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that remains to be seen. But for now, he has earned himself a slightly more progressive title than Senator John McCain. That’s kind of like cringing a little less than the guy he’s watching Brokeback Mountain with. But hey, it’s one more “in favor” than we had before.
Chris Seelbach, a first-time candidate for Cincinnati City Council, has won an endorsement from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national group that could provide a boost in campaign fundraising.
Founded in 1991, the Victory Fund provides strategic, technical and financial support to openly gay and lesbian candidates across the United States, helping them win elections at local, state and federal levels. Most recently, the organization helped elect Mayor Anise Parker of Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the nation.
LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal” in corporate America, but American Financial Group and Western & Southern Financial Group are apparently exceptions. Both Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 companies received a 0 percent for LGBT policies in the 2012 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
The index uses LGBT-related corporate policies to determine scores: non-discrimination policies including sexual orientation and gender identity, company-provided domestic partner health insurance, equal health coverage for transgender individuals, organizational LGBT cultural competency, engagement in actions that undermine LGBT equality and other categories. The full rankings, dubbed a “Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.
In the Greater Cincinnati area, Cincinnati-based Omnicare, Covington-based Ashland and Highland Heights-based General Cable fared only slightly better than American Financial and Western & Southern. The three companies received 15 points for at least including sexual orientation in non-discrimination policies.
Other Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 companies did much
better in HRC’s rankings. Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s
got a 90 percent, Kroger got an 85 percent and Fifth Third Bank got an
85 percent. The high scores show some companies are providing more to LGBT individuals than local, state and federal governments through equal access to health care and other benefits that aren't written into law.
On a national level, the five low-scoring Fortune 500 companies in Greater Cincinnati show a surprising level of backwardness. In general, the nationwide rankings were very positive this year. In an emailed statement, HRC pointed out 252 companies got 100-percent scores in 2012, up from 13 companies in 1991. As HRC put it, “For American companies, 100 percent is the new normal.”
CityBeat could not reach Western & Southern or American Financial Group for immediate comment. This story will be updated if comments become available.
City Council today unanimously passed a motion that will require parades funded by the city to adhere to the city's anti-discrimination policies, marking the end of an effort that began when the Cincinnati St. Patrick's Day Parade barred an LGBT group from participating.
The motion, which was championed by Councilman Chris Seelbach, requires any future parade that receives funding from the city to respect the city's protected class rules, which prevent discrimination against people of color, women and LGBT individuals.
Council members cautioned that the measure won’t require event hosts to invite fringe groups, but it will make it so LGBT individuals, people of color and women are allowed to participate in future events.
The motion was passed in response to a controversy that began when the St. Patrick's Day Parade prevented the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) from participating. Seelbach, the first openly gay council member, told CityBeat that Chris Schulte and other parade organizers excluded GLSEN because they didn't want the holiday event, which has Catholic roots, to be affiliated with members of the gay and lesbian community.
Schulte later sent out a press release claiming the parade's rules do not allow for the advancement of "any political party, social movement or cause," even though the parade allows politicians and other political groups to march.
In response to the controversy, Seelbach and other council members boycotted the parade. Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan was the only Democratic council member to participate, but she protested the parade's decision by walking alongside a banner in support of marriage equality.
The parade controversy was also picked up by national news outlets, including Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post.